Why Rebates Should Interest You
Energy efficient equipment that might otherwise be beyond your budget, might now be within reach thanks to rebates. (For example, instead of purchasing basic HVAC controllers, rebates might ultimately cover the cost of an energy management system in addition to the controllers.)
If you are in the market for upgrades at your hotel, dormitory, MDU or other commercial space with intermittent occupancy, familiarize yourself with the energy-saving incentives available to you. These incentives can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your project. Your utility company wants you to take advantage of incentives that will save energy. In fact, you as a utilities customer are already paying for these programs.
Incentives include grants, loans, tax deductions for businesses and rebates.
Don’t leave money on the table. But be aware of your options, and enter the process with eyes wide open.
The Counterintuitive Enigma
“Regulations mandate that most utility companies reinvest some of their earnings in energy reduction. Energy efficiency is the cleanest source of new energy, and efficiency programs can help utilities avoid building new power generation, which is an extremely costly endeavor,” explains Leah Maggio. Leah is an Energy Engineer at Franklin Energy Services, https://www.franklinenergy.com/ a consulting firm that specializes in designing and implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
Maggio continues, “Aside from traditional efficiency programs, utilities are looking at more creative ways to reach their customers, which can include things like offering LEDs and other smart devices to their customers directly or participating in school programs.”
“A common mandate is that 2% of their sales must go back into efficiency programs. Rebates vary by state and by utility levels. Some utilities will run their own programs depending on their size; others will contract out to companies like Franklin Energy to run and implement those programs.” (Franklin Energy currently implements the Business Incentive Program, Small Business Program, and Multifamily Programs)
For some utility companies, incentives take the form of credits. For some, they’re rebates. It’s so varied in fact, that they can differ WITHIN one utility. Take Eversource, for example. Eversource is the power provider for Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Their incentives vary by state-within the very same power provider.
Some states are more aggressive with their energy savings goals, and they offer more attractive incentives: the East Coast—New England especially—has some fairly competitive incentive rates. The Midwest does as well. ACEE provides a U.S. map (http://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard) showing states and their level of energy efficiency participation. California, for instance, ranks highly not so much on the incentive side but they have very progressive building codes that require more efficient equipment.
What equipment qualifies for rebates?
You can find incentive plans for water conservation, HVACs, HVAC controllers, even electric vehicle charging stations. Lea Maggio explains, “Right now, the LED incentives are definitely the lowest hanging fruit nationwide. It’s probably a good chunk of where the energy savings are coming from.”
Leah says that typically, once you install LED lighting, you can see the LED energy savings on your very next utility bill. “Of course it depends on what lighting you previously had, your operating hours, things like that. Seeing the savings really energizes people to do more intensive projects, maybe on the HVAC side and the control side, to get further savings.”
Occupancy Based, Not Setback Thermostats
HVAC controller rebates, like other rebates, are not based on specific brands. That said, thermostat design is a consideration. As explained by John Skibinski, Project Development Engineer at Telkonet, “rebate companies are no longer looking for setback thermostats on the commercial side. That wording has been dropped. Why? The setback thermostats were installed, but were rarely configured to actually set back temperatures. So the utilities got burned. They gave out all this money for setback thermostats, and when they asked to be shown on the grid how well the setback stats worked, the answer was, nobody set them up. Contrast that with an occupancy based thermostat. It is pre-configured, so you can’t turn it off. I gave one utility our cut sheets that explained our occupancy-based technology, and they said, “THAT technology qualifies for our commercial program”.
Setback thermostats-out, occupancy based thermostats-in.
Where Do I Find Rebates?
Search www.dsireusa.org for the rebates available in your area. Incentives are always changing; they expire when funds run out, eventually replaced with new incentive programs.
Range of Rebates and Incentives
Prescriptive rebates are easier to apply for but the payout is generally less than custom rebates. Prescriptive rebates are based on installing approved energy-efficient equipment, or taking other energy saving measures that meet a defined set of criteria. The payout is predefined.
As Thomas Mirante, co-founder of SmartCon Solutions explains, “Prescriptive is simple. Prescriptive is, ‘if install this meter, we will give you $100. If you put this remote controller in, we will give you $50. If you put in this thermostat we will give you $75’. It’s as simple as that. And you don’t have to go through the vetting or calculations, because you’re putting in [an approved] piece of hardware…it’s kind of a no brainer. Prescriptive incentives are super easy to get involved with.”
Custom rebates are typically worth a lot more than prescriptive rebates. They come at a cost, however. The application process is more detailed, more cumbersome. Custom rebates are based on energy savings, which has to be measured and verified-both pre-installation and post-installation in most instances.
As Mirante explains, “A custom incentive means the utility company doesn’t really have any particular rebate incentive in place for a particular application. You have to present a formulation, show them how your sequence of operation works with your solution. And you basically tell them how you came to a certain measurement of reducing a certain amount of kwh. They’ll evaluate that from an engineer’s standpoint and will decide if in fact your data is correct. Then they will grant you an incentive based on how much you are going to save, per Kilowatt per hour of electricity for instance.”
In our next blog post, we will take a dive deeper into custom rebates, what is involved in a successful rebate application, and whether it’s all worth it in the end.